Jesus always preached the Gospel of the Kingdom of God. He didn’t limit his preaching to being saved from going to hell after death and going to Heaven. He said; “The kingdom of God is not coming with signs to be observed; nor will they say, ‘Look, here [it is]!’ or, ‘There [it is]!’ For behold, the kingdom of God is in your midst.”~ (Luke 17:20,21)
In the O.T. none of the prophets wrote about what we usually consider Heaven. You know; the fluffy white clouds, city of gold with golden streets up in the sky somewhere way above the hot lake of eternal fire and misery. Actually, Jesus didn’t teach about anything like that…and neither did Paul, Peter or James. Concerning what we have been told is “Heaven”; John did record Jesus saying:
“Do not let your heart be troubled; believe in God, believe also in Me. “In My Father’s house are many dwelling places; if it were not so, I would have told you; for I go to prepare a place for you. “If I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and receive you to Myself, that where I am, [there] you may be also. “And you know the way where I am going.” ~ (John 14:1-4)
We are more familiar with how most versions translate the above as ” there are many mansions…” but he used a word that is used only one other time in the Bible and I don’t think it’s coincidental that it happens to be in the same chapter. Jesus answered and said to him, “If anyone loves Me, he will keep My word; and My Father will love him, and We will come to him and make Our abode with him ~ (John 14:23)
The word is more literally translated abode or”dwelling place, individual dwelling, to abide”. Mansions seems to be a less accurate idea. With all of this in mind; I intend to explore the idea that maybe Jesus didn’t intend for us to think that we were going to “have” a literal mansion in a literal city in the sky someday.
Because after Jesus told them that he was “preparing a place” for them; He made it clear that they knew the way to that “place” and that “place” was the Father. (John 14:5,6)… (It just occurred to me that Jesus said this immediately before going to the cross. I always thought of him “preparing a place” when He ascended to “Heaven” but, He told the Disciples about this before the cross; even though he later saw the Disciples before ascending to the Father!…Right now my head is spinning…)
Getting back on track…
I picture 11 guys that are getting pretty worked up because Jesus is at the “peak of his career” when he says that he is leaving. So Jesus, reassures them that He is going ahead of them to the Father and they can come to because there is plenty of “room”. The disciples were still thinking carnally. Jesus had barely mentioned Holy Spirit yet, let alone did they have the spiritual wisdom and understanding to discern that he was still speaking figuratively. But, we can see from 16:25 that he was still speaking figuratively ~ “These things I have spoken to you in figurative language; an hour is coming when I will no longer speak to you in figurative language, but will tell you plainly of the Father.” Then Jesus speaks very plainly in verses 26-28 and one of them finally gets it -“His disciples said, “Lo, now You are speaking plainly and are not using a figure of speech.”(v.29)
So everything from John 14 through the end of John 16 seems to be figurative. The word used for “figurative language” is literally: allegory or proverb and is the exact same word that John used to describe Jesus calling himself the Good Shepherd. It sounds to me that Jesus isn’t building us literal mansions; any more than I am a literal sheep. We also aren’t literally a branch on a literal vine like Jesus described in John 15.
Which all sounds good to me because I don’t want to spend all eternity in a glorified retirement home. But, something in that may sound appealing to us; in our human bodies that feel so weary. We can’t forget that weariness will cease to exist when our bodies are glorified! We will not be sitting around on our butts in some comfortable mansion for all eternity, relaxing. Our “bodies” will be the glorified mansion! “Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit who is in you, whom you have from God?” (1 Cor.6:19)
So that was the first and only mention of what we usually consider “Heaven” by Jesus or any of the apostles until the end of the Bible.
But, Paul described the same thing that Jesus taught in a much plainer style,as usual. Paul’s writings are filled with wisdom and insight that appeals to the “Greek” or “Western” mind because “For indeed Jews ask for signs and Greeks search for wisdom”(1 Cor.1:22) That’s why Jesus spoke to the Jews with symbolism and Paul mostly wrote to the “Gentiles (any non-Jew)” with a more rational or literal style.
Since Americans have been trained to think “rationally”; it will help to understand how Paul confirmed what Jesus said above.
“Therefore we do not lose heart, but though our outer man is decaying, yet our inner man is being renewed day by day...while we look not at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen; for the things which are seen are temporal, but the things which are not seen are eternal.“ (2 Cor.4:16-18)
He is contrasting the invisible/spiritual man to the visible/fleshly man and continues uninterrupted in the next chapter…
“For we know that if the earthly tent which is our house is torn down, we have a building from God, a house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens. For indeed in this [house] we groan, longing to be clothed with our dwelling from heaven,” (2 Cor.5:1,2)
We desire to be out of our visible/earthly “house” and “clothed/adorned” with our “heavenly dwelling”
Now consider these descriptions with the Prophecy recorded by John in Revelation, which was a series of visions that were full of symbolism.
“Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth; for the first heaven and the first earth passed away, and there is no longer [any] sea. 2And I saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, made ready as a bride adorned for her husband. 3And I heard a loud voice from the throne, saying, “Behold, the tabernacle of God is among men, and He will dwell among them, and they shall be His people, and God Himself will be among them“ (Rev.21:1-4)
The “new city” is compared to a bride adorned (made ready) for her husband. God declares that he abides/dwells with man because man is his dwelling place. A few verses later, John describes the “holy city, new Jerusalem” in more detail:
“Come here, I will show you the bride, the wife of the Lamb.”And he carried me away in the Spirit to a great and high mountain, and showed me the holy city, Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, 11having the glory of God. Her brilliance was like a very costly stone, as a stone of crystal-clear jasper.” (Rev.21:9-11)
It’s time to stop thinking after the flesh. I don’t think we should be trying to picture what this looks like because that’s missing the entire point. The “new holy city, Jerusalem” is the Bride…us. I seriously doubt that we are going to be a literal mansion or city of lame buildings merely founded on precious stones instead of concrete….
BORING! It’s now wonder Christianity has become such a hard sell to a world that never sits still…
He is describing the church, who is the bride, which is the body of Christ; purified and holy..filled with the glory of God!
It seems that Heaven isn’t (just?) a place that we are going… maybe it’s more about who we are in the spirit and who we are becoming! We are a born-again spirit that is putting off the flesh and putting on the “spiritual man”. The Good News is that our spirit is already joined to the Lord and we are not trying to be something that we are not. We are allowing Him to show us what he has already made us…”a new creature!” I believe that you and I are the city of God being prepared by God for us to live together for all eternity! “For behold, the kingdom of God is in your midst.”